In our homes, we store food in our pantries and refrigerators for use at meals. Many homeowners discover that they are not the only ones who want to consume the food but numerous insects that love to feast on it.

Often when homeowners find these insects, they are puzzled as to their origins. The pests can spread from one part of the home to another, making them worse. Despite the issues, they cause, preventative and controls techniques can be implemented to reduce and eliminate them.

In the 1990s, I lived in an apartment complex in the Norcross area and noticed small insects that appeared in large numbers one day. I searched and found an open bag of birdseed in a closet infested with rice weevils or granary weevils, or both. These insects are small beetles with a long snout as their mouthparts, much like the boll weevil that troubles cotton and plum curculio that infests peaches and plums. I disposed of the birdseed and then thoroughly vacuumed the apartment.

In a short period of them, the weevils were gone since they had no food sources. They also infest flour, cornstarch, rice, and other similar materials.

Indian meal moths are among the most common stored product pests. They prefer rice, flour, rice, and other material and can disperse throughout the residence, mainly concentrated around pantries, cupboards, and other places where this material is stored. The adults have wings that are beige to brown and are most active in the evening.

The larvae are less than one-quarter of an inch in length, cylindrical in shape, and white to light green. They produce a silky substance in places they infest. They pupate nearby on boxes and in spaces between the wood in the storage areas.

Saw-toothed grain beetles are as common as the Indian meal moths and prefer the same food substances. The adults are brown to red, relatively small, and are less than one-eighth of an inch long. If you observe them under a magnifying glass, the insects have a row of teeth-like structures located on each side of their thorax behind their heads.

Their size allows them to penetrate small spaces, cracks, and even creases found on the packaging of the food material, where they can be brought into the home. The adults are active, do not fly, and can live six to eight months.

The red flour beetles are another troublesome pest. The insects are roughly one-eighth of an inch long, red to dark brown, with a clubbed antenna. Warehouses and other food processing facilities can suffer from large outbreaks of these beetles, but they also can be in the home. They are unable to eat whole kernels of grains but will consume ground up and milled materials. The adults can fly and are attracted to lights at night, and can disperse far from the original site of infestation. The females have a long lifespan and can lay thousands of eggs.

Prevention is the key to controlling these pests. All food should be kept in airtight containers or the refrigerator. Clean up all food spills in the pantry and focus on cracks, crevices, and corners and make sure it stays dry and fixes any water leaks.

If you have an infestation and cannot mitigate it, you should contact a licensed pest control operator to examine and remedy the issue.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett.


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